We all know that relationships are stronger when both people are completely honest with each other and that self-disclosure positively affects relationships, right?
That used to be the case when personal detailed intimate information was between two people in a relationship. Things changed since self-disclosing online became a thing and sharing detailed intimate and personal information on social media got one likes and followers.
Whether self-disclosing online or on social media helps or hurts relationship was the focus of a new study, the first of its kind.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Kansas looked at whether or not posting personal photos and experiences online impacts a partner’s satisfaction and feelings of intimacy.
They conducted a series of five studies built on each other and compared how posting personal information online affected intimacy and satisfaction in online and offline contexts, romantic relationships and friendships, and when the partner posted about themselves versus the relationship as a whole. In doing so, the researchers found underlying conditions driving the negative effects of online disclosure.
In their new published paper, they found sharing information online can do more harm to romantic relationships than good. It not only negatively impacts a partner’s satisfaction and feelings of intimacy in the relationship, it can make them feel left out or see themselves as less special.
The study did, however, find a way to counteract its negative effects. If you often post about your life, include your better half in the post.
“On the other hand, when you include a significant other in your post, perhaps as confirming a relationship status online or posting a photo together, we found that it counters the negative effects of online disclosure, increasing the feelings of intimacy and satisfaction,” said Omri Gillath, a professor of psychology at KU who co-authored the study. “This validates the relationship, and a partner likely would see their significant other’s post as caring and inclusive.”
Gillath, Lee and fellow co-author Andrew Miller, a medical school student at KU, did find one instance when sharing information with large audiences didn’t have negative effects. Friendships weren’t affected by overly personal posts.
“For many of us, sharing our feelings and daily experiences on social media is one of the main ways we stay in contact with friends and family,” Lee said. “Because of this cultural shift from face-to-face or phone conversations, it’s important that we understand how our usage of these technologies affect our personal relationships. Additionally, other research has found that people benefit from sharing information about themselves, which might be why people engage in it so much. But it’s important to know the full picture and understand that sometimes sharing can be bad for you.”